Many Glacier in Glacier National Park, feels like the Swiss alps. Extensive mountains, live glaciers, and crystal lakes provide a striking backdrop to any hike, boat ride, or a lounge at the lodge. Here in the Swiftcurrent Valley, you can’t go wrong with any activity you choose, but we’re here for the hiking. We don’t have much time so we go for a quick hike around Swiftcurrent Lake.
Many Glacier Hotel
In 1915, the great Northern Railway built Many Glacier Hotel up on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake. This old girl consists of a series of chalets and stretches out a good distance along the Northeast shore of the lake. Upon a foundation of stone, the wood structure rises up to four stories tall. The swiss alpine theme prevails the exterior architecture and the interior decorations.
For rustic rooms, the price made me balk: $528 a night for a Lakeside Suite! I wonder if that lakeside view is studded with diamonds and gold. The value rooms, which face the parking lot, cost almost $200 a night. Yikes! I guess folks pay for that unique location and a really awesome scenery, but with modest amenities and “old-world” style accommodations.
Grinnell Glacier and several glaciers replenish Swiftcurrent Lake with fresh water, along with surrounding snowfields. The lake also provides the perfect starting point for numerous hikes. Famous trails such as Ptarmigan Tunnel, Grinnell Glacier, and Cracker Lake should not be missed by any long term visitor. I also saw anglers and boaters on the lake, but not without some difficulty due the frequent wind gusts.
Sadly, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the glaciers in the area will completely vanish by 2030. With only 23 glaciers left in the park, that leaves folks with a 14-year or less window to see them all before they melt away.
Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail
Near the boat dock just south of the hotel, we started our hike on this flat and easy loop trail. Heading clockwise, we hit the best of the lake first. Each side trail lead to a slice of shoreline with a stunning view of the lake and the surrounding mountains. Nearer to the hotel, there are a few vistas that provide a great view of The Garden Wall, Grinnell Point, and Angel Wing. At the south end, there’s a great view of the hotel, Altyn Peak, and Apikuni Mountain.
Just before we near the hiker’s junction, pass by Chief Two Guns winter boat house and what look to be private residences for boat workers. One of the houses has big bay windows facing the lake. Lucky them!
Just as we reached the turn off that leads hikers to Grinnell Lake and Hidden falls, we gingerly passed deer feeding in the thick undergrowth, trying our best not to disturb her. We then crossed a footbridge which leads over a stream that feeds water from Lake Josephine to Swiftcurrent Lake.
We next spotted the south boat dock, where the wooden boat Cheif Two Guns lands to drop off hikers, who then head to Lake Josephine and take another shuttle boat before hiking to Grinnell Glacier. At the dock we sat for a bit, dangled our feet above the pristine blue water while enjoying the view before the boat arrives.
We parted ways with the dock and hiked toward another bridge, which crosses over the Swiftcurrent creek. Just beyond this bridge, we sat on a bench near the bridge and listened to the wind rustle through aspen trees, and enjoyed the view of Grinnell Point and Mt. Wilbur. I especially enjoyed the sound of the water rushing by, which comes down from a series of lakes, all leading upstream to Swiftcurrent Mountain.
Continental Divide Trail
Past the forest of pine and aspen, we reached the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead parking lot, and to get to the north shore of Swiftcurrent lake proper, we have to cut through and take the Continental Divide Trail.
As we continued our hike on the north shore, we got some nice views of the hotel and the bulging ridgeline of Allen Mountain and Wynn Mountain. In the opposite direction, we spot Altyn Peak, where grizzlies and bighorn sheep like to play.
We then reach the north half of Swift Current lake and the road leading to Many Glacier Hotel. We stopped for a bit to enjoy the rapidly flowing water before it reaches Lake Sherburne. In the shadow of Apikuni Mountain, the sun shines bright and let the water spray from the creek cool us.
We slowly made our way back to our truck, dodging light traffic and a group of tourists excreted from a bus. We try to delay our departure, but we have a long drive ahead of us and must get back. If there’s one thing I come away with from visiting Many Glacier is that I want more time to enjoy this lovely area.